In the Arena: Trump’s State of the Union message: Let’s fix our divided government


For The Recorder
Friday, February 02, 2018

Assuming you watched it — and I have to wonder how many reading this actually did — Tuesday’s State of the Union address was much more than just a president taking credit for a strengthening economy.

It was also a pretty cagey opening salvo in what could wind up being a pretty competitive midterm campaign season.

To the more passionate members of “La Resistance,” this concept is no doubt laughable. There’s no way, given Trump’s approval ratings, that next November will be anything but a sweeping victory for the Democrats, right?

Not necessarily.

I believe anyone who is counting those particular chickens right now does not have a full appreciation of exactly what happened in the House chamber Tuesday night.

For all of his admittedly boorish behavior over the last two-plus years, Donald Trump delivered what might have been his most “presidential” speech to date — one which included more than a few olive branches to the opposition party, many of whom never left their seats during what was the third longest SOTU address in history.

Most sat there stone-faced as Trump rolled out several initiatives which, if proposed by a Democrat, would have had them jumping out of their seats. Paid family leave, prison reform and essential amnesty for 1.8 million illegal immigrants were just a few of the carrots Trump dangled, with little to no reaction.

Not even a recommitment to battling the opioid epidemic was enough to trigger even a modicum of bi-partisan response, and every American watching that speech saw that. Many of those viewers, myself among them, are regular working Americans who don’t have an ideological dog in this fight and are looking for someone — anyone — in this den of thieves to step up and make at least some effort to abandon ideological entrenchments in favor of crafting public policy that creates a better America for everyone.

I understand the Democrats’ frustration, especially given how the GOP treated Obama during his time in office. But all we kept hearing during that time was the need to stop the bickering and get down to work. They now have a chance to turn that sentiment into action.

There are lots of reasons not to like Trump, but the speech has allowed him to at least create the impression that he wants to unify his government. How long said impression will last is anyone’s guess, but if he ends up developing a plan which backs up his rhetoric, and the economy keeps humming as the Dems run farther to the left while alternately standing in the schoolhouse door, Election Night 2018 may not wind up looking a whole lot different than 2016 did.

Is the phoenix rising?

He may never bang the Senate gavel again, but it doesn’t look like Franklin-Hampshire Senator Stan Rosenberg will be leaving the arena anytime soon.

Rosenberg last week tweeted out a picture of himself picking up nomination papers to run for another two-year term this year. He still has to return them, but assuming he does, it is doubtful the “Senate President-in exile” will face serious local opposition for his seat, even as the Senate Ethics Committee struggles with how to best move forward with the investigation into alleged sexual abuse and influence-peddling involving Rosenberg’s spouse Bryon Hefner, from whom he is now legally separated.

In addition to his unofficial campaign launch, Rosenberg has also begun speaking out on a number of issues, most notably the state Group Insurance Commission’s decision to limit the number of health plan options it offers, which will affect hundreds of thousands of public employees who get their benefits through that agency.

When that story broke, all I could think of was how close Greenfield came to joining the GIC a few years back. If you remember, the mayor wanted to buy benefits for the city through the GIC in an effort to save money, but the then-Town Council rejected the idea, citing concerns about, among other things, the loss of local control over which plans would be offered to employees.

Sometimes, there are benefits to not making certain moves just to save a buck, a lesson this city would do well to remember as it considers farming out its garbage and recycling operation to a private entity.

As for Rosenberg, it’s good to see him still out there swinging, despite a fall from grace, which might have proven politically fatal for almost anyone else.

Chris Collins is a former staff reporter for the Recorder, and is a Greenfield native. Over the years he has continued to keep his eye on local politics from a variety of perches for different news outlets.